Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tightwad tuesday: read up

A while ago, one of the children's librarians at our library (who happens to be a friend we got to know last year at the community garden) gifted me with a couple books the library was letting go: The Tightwad Gazette, volumes one and two. Since then, they've languished on a windowsill under a stack of library books (what can I say? I've been a bit preoccupied), but the other day I was looking for something to read while I camped with my swollen ankles propped up in front of the A/C, and they caught my eye.

Amy Dacyczyn, a self-proclaimed "Frugal Zealot", first published The Tightwad Gazette in newsletter form in 1990; later she compiled the newsletters into three volumes, organized seasonally. One of the things I really enjoyed about the books right away was Dacyczyn's notion that thrift gets an undeservedly bad rap, and we should promote "tightwaddery" by seeking out and sharing with other like-minded penny-pinchers.

As with all tightwad tips, her newsletters have some suggestions that won't work for every household, and some are even a bit dated. What I've found useful is that her ideas (and those of her readers) get me thinking about how I do things, where I could cut back, what I can tweak in how I'm doing things now. One of the best ideas that I'm itching to try--but it's going to take more work than I can do right now--is creating a price notebook of all the items our family purchases most frequently so I can compare how much different stores charge for that item, and know when I'm really getting a good deal. I plan on trying this later in the fall, and will report back on how it goes.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for some interesting reading, I highly recommend checking out The Tightwad Gazette--from your local library, of course.


Mammy/Grammy Lo/Snookums said...

Gotta love those librarians. Another way to help control spending is to track expenses on a constant basis using a spreadsheet. The trick is to make categories (we librarians love to classify things) that are appropriate and have the right amount of detail for your needs. For example, it might be too broad to put all the money you spend at Walmart in one category when you buy food, clothing, toys, plants, etc. there. It might be too narrow to separate out every type of food item or shampoo or toilet paper, etc. Whatever works best for you, a spreadsheet (even a canned one so long as it has the flexibility to be tailored to your situation) is great because formulas can be created to manipulate (in a good way) the data to see what is really being spent on the categories. That can lead to more realistic budgeting for your family. I won't say better because better is usually a judgement call.

chicklegirl said...

Lo, we did expense tracking for a long time--though we found budget software a bit easier to navigate than trying to set up a spreadsheet on our own.

We used to use MS Money, which worked fine. Later, we found Mint.com--which was FREE, a bit more user friendly, and had some additional functionality.

I confess, it's been quite a while since we've done any budget tracking, but it would be a good idea to start up again soon so we can track how much we're spending on baby items.

Dyann said...

Emily F does the same thing. She's got a spreadsheet that tells her whether it's a better deal to buy 50lb of oats at Costco, FM bulk section or the church cannery.

If you want to get in contact with her, I can help with that. She'd love to pass on her insights.

Love you!